Nov 12, 2013

August 26, 1971: The Bootleg Battle


"We want you guys to go outside and liberate those bootlegs." Those were direct orders to Sam Cutler, the Dead's road manager, from Jerry Garcia. Cutler rounds up the biggest beer-bellied Al Hirt stand-ins from among the 85 assorted straights and out-and-out muscle freaks that make up the Howard Stein Gaelic Park goon squad (remember the Fillmore uniforms?) and marches them out, indignantly, into the exuberant crowd that is waiting to hear the oh-so-righteous Grateful Dead.

They spot Johnny Lee, one hundred and ten pounds of bootleg selling might. About half a dozen of these New Age entrepreneurs surround the guy; except for Cutler, they weigh an average of two hundred pounds a-piece. Cutler announces the liberation of the Dead bootleg Johnny is selling, grabs them from out of his hands, and gives them out...twenty-seven of them.

They're ahead of the game: The Grateful Dead, the Altamont friends of Pigpen, Howard Stein and his millions earned through his well-known ruthlessness, and his beer-bellied bouncers: one; Johnny Lee, 110 lbs., earning less than fifty a week (this was his first time out selling albums this season) with no friends with more than a spare hundred at a time, with no friends accustomed to violence or willing to engage in it over money, the loss: $52.00.

The pigs intent on picking up on the Rock Empire Game, where Graham left off, stop at nothing. They go over to Hawkman and tell him, "You're either going to jail immediately or you're gonna give out all of the Dead bootlegs you've got on you." Not a chance...Hawkman has seen colder-eyed muscle on Sixth Street. He rages about until the goons are convinced they're going to have stomp this guy in sight of all before he's going to part with his records. They agree to let him go if he agrees to sell no more Dead at the concert. To get out of their sweaty clutches, he agrees and splits in a rage. Meanwhile, two other hawkers are surrounded and have 120 albums confiscated.

It rages and sputters; the bootleggers gather forces and go in to see Cutler and Stein. The ones remaining outside the concert hassle the assorted bouncers, now no longer running with their Tons-of-Fun pack sic-ing cops on their tail, accusing them of assaulting Johnny Lee -- I'm not following up though, just doing whatever can be done to tear down their fascist spirits a bit.

The conference ends behind the concert gates; before the confiscated records are returned, Stein and the Dead insist the hawkers who own the records rat on the "bootleg kingpin." Dig that shit man! This is the funky, beautiful voice of the Grateful Dead! "YOU GET YOUR RECORDS BACK YOU RAT ON YOUR BROTHER." What is that crap?!

(Last year, people would approach Hawkman and offer to sell him good Dead tapes. His answer was that, no, they wouldn't bootleg the Dead because they needed the money so badly. That was last year that they needed the bread -- and most of the years preceding as well.)

The biggest piece of shit spewing from Cutler's mouth is about the reasons the Dead have for being so pissed off: they don't like the quality (remember Garcia's line in "I Got No Chance of Losin"? He says, "I'm only in it for the gold." Yeah, music has a way of being more honest than the artist intends it to be at times...) The "quality"? Anyone who has bought a bootleg recently will know and agree that the bootleg stereo album called "Grateful Dead" is one of the best underground products yet. The tape was taken from a concert the group did at Winterland, on the coast a few months back. Yeah, Garcia fucks up a bit on "Casey Jones," and Pigpen's ego may have been deflated a bit by his voice coming over poorly on "Good Loving" but that was a concert. You do a concert and you stand by your performance, good or bad. That's show business.

This effete artistic bullshit doesn't matter anyway. Bootlegs [are] structured around the selling of the sounds of big name groups. A big name group is one in which each musician earns over five figures. The best-selling bootleg on this coast at this time is this new Dead. Bootleggers push about 500 a month in the city. Whenever a new Dead System-Sponsored album hits the stores to good publicity [ -- ] they didn't even get ripped-off for the work they put into the bootlegger's product -- [then] it sells 10,000 in the same area at the same time. Simultaneously, more people become Dead freaks as they hear more and more of the group, be it on bootleg or straight production. It amounts [to] big money for the Winterland concert. When you're out to get all the money you can out of your gigs, like the Dead seem to be (like all the groups seem to be) you might be accused of being a bit piggish; when you use strong-arm shit to insure that you get every last penny that you deserve -- by making Amerikan standards -- you are a Pig. Jerry Garcia, is that you?

Nobody buys that anti-bootleg shit about the artistic integrity of the artist in saying what goes out. One, you stand by your performance; two, even if you don't want to, Jerry, somewhat, and say "all your private property is fair game for your brothers (especially when they sell records of concerts that don't compete with coming releases) and your brother (who's gonna continue to dig you as we live off your comets we're gonna keep ripping you off because it is possible. As simple as that. We'd like to paraphrase the Airplane tail) is me." If you and Cutler and Stein continue your shit, though, we'll just have to sing the song the same old way, you guys being put in the position of being the same old reactionary establishment that we're all ripping off. It's all around. You break your back playing gigs for ten years and suddenly success is staring you in the face. Bread: lots and lots of bread. You turn your back on your poor, ripping 'em off roots and start to tighten up. You're in the biggest rip-off industry around, but no one cares as long as they're having fun. Bootleggers pay a lot to produce and package but are rip-off people, too. They give the eager little music freak what he wants and charge him what the stores charge; it's the same rip-off on a smaller scale. The biggest winners on your side of the rip-off, Jerry, are people like Stein and the late Grajonka, people who run the gamut from General Sarnoff to Mike Curb. These are the Pop Power Politicians; the dudes who are going to control us all some day. The people who get rich (if you consider an average take of $100 a week "rich") on our side of the rip-off is mostly small-time peddlers like Johnny Lee, who'll never get back on his boot legs again.

Money. That's the whole story, isn't it? If these were other times, in another land under a different set of rules maybe you could justifiably complain about the people who want to give your recorded performances out free because you didn't screen them and pick out the sections you didn't like and do them over for the cat, 'cause no one charges for their music, and because the means of production belong to the people, and they can turn out all the good sounds they can, and you have a natural right to screen all releases. But we're here. Now. You guys are making millions -- or soon will be. Money is power, especially as the concept of money is crumbling nation-wide and power freaks like Stein are cornering the market on it. The channels that the green-power the Dead bring in travel aren't the healthiest for the generations of revolution to come. Stein is one of these hopeful images of a freak with a chance to change things positively gone sour, who uses all his power to consolidate his power; who'll go to any extremes to insure the natural expansion of that power. Fuck him. Fuck you, if you even consider using brown-shirt tactics to perpetuate this raking-in operation.

Maybe I should give some note to a rumor: that the Dead have been looking for bootleg manufacturers for some time now with the object in mind of collaborating to produce one or more bootlegs. That would be nice. Then they could have some of their artistic integrity back, and maybe even a cut out of the take, not that that is important. Maybe that'll still happen. But you cocksuckers still owe Johnny Lee $52.00.

(by Basho Katzenjammer, from the East Village Other, 6 October 1971)


  1. An editorial note on the source: this seems to have been sloppily printed. This transcription is mostly faithful, though there are a few silent spelling corrections & word substitutions. But some of the sentences still don't make much sense - hasty writing or printing left parts of this a mess.

    Will comment more later, as there is a lot to discuss here.

  2. Were the Dead already encouraging tape trading by August 1971? When did they start doing that?

    Later, they made it clear that they encouraged tape trading but not bootleg production of vinyl (or CDs, when that time came), so discouraging vinyl bootleggers in 71 was consistent with their later policy. Though Katzenjammer may mostly be protesting the strong-arm tactics.

    Interesting how the same issues are still around in different form today, but now for all bands: is copying of digital recordings promotion or piracy?

    1. Briefly: tape trading barely existed in 1971. Despite Weir's friendliness on the 8/6/71 recording, the Dead crew did their best to bust all tapers in those years. At the time they seem to have believed that tapers were generally recording to make bootlegs, but the band made exceptions & were inconsistent. In 1976 the Dead started, not "encouraging" but accepting tapers' presence; it was a victory of the fans over band policy.

      See the second part of this post, and the comments:

    2. Am I right in remembering that the first official taper section was at the six-show Halloween run at the Berkeley Community Theater in 1984?

  3. The Winterland bootleg album mentioned is the famous Mammary Productions bootleg featuring part of the 10/4/70 show, which became available in spring 1971. (Another bootleg called Ain't It Crazy came out in mid-1971, taken from the April '71 Fillmore East shows.)
    Ironically, at the 8/26/71 show, Marty Weinberg was also selling his own bootleg album that he'd made that spring - "I only had a few left, and I figured I would take them to the show and sell them. What better place? I had maybe ten with me, and I sold them in three seconds." He also taped the show; but the "goon squad" overlooked him.
    At the time, tape-trading was basically unheard of, and limited to a very few tapers. For most people, bootlegs were their only chance to hear a Dead show, and I'm sure many people were introduced to live Dead via bootleg records. 1971 was still pretty early for this, but even by August '71 there were already a few Dead bootlegs available.
    Clearly this made the Dead paranoid, as you can hear in the 12/31/70 show when they bust a taper, shouting: ""There's bootleggers among you! Let's find out who these people are...put that spotlight out there on that microphone...Underground Records, Incorporated. Find this one for $10."

    This article mentions the rumor that "the Dead have been looking for bootleg manufacturers for some time now with the object in mind of collaborating to produce one or more bootlegs." I don't know how that idea spread or if it was just someone's imagination, but the Dead were not entirely consistent in their anti-bootleg approach.
    When Phil heard Marty Weinberg's bootleg album, he was impressed with the selections and invited Weinberg backstage at a December '71 Felt Forum show. "He asked me how I recorded it...asked me lots of questions about what I did with the tapes...[and said,] 'We thought about that, to be able to take our performances and have them available the next day.'"
    A few years later, Les Kippel was one of the founders of Dead Relics magazine (which considerably boosted the resources available to Dead tapers, and made tape-trading easier & more widespread) - he said, "We had a correspondence going with the Grateful Dead... They were interested in somehow creating an official tape exchange. They expressed that they were having problems with...Warner Brothers, [which] controlled a lot of the material that they produced, and the Dead couldn't release the material without permission from the record company...[which] owned the rights to everything they created."
    Warners, as a record label, was of course entirely against taping since it would "cut into record sales;" and the Dead also wanted to make sure that any tape that came out was of the highest quality. They were also "concerned about how many people were going to get it, and they wanted to control that... The concept was to send the tape out within two weeks after the show happened; this way, you didn't have to bring your tape machine [to the shows]... For $10 you were going to get the two cassettes of the entire concert."
    Eventually the Dead decided not to do this, for various reasons - limited technology & lack of time among them - but at least they floated the idea. (See the Taping Compendium vol, 1, p.30 - the "Outside the System" intros to the first two Taping Compendiums have a good discussion of the growth of taping in the '70s.)

  4. (continued...)

    As we see in this article, in 1971 the Dead were already concerned with the quality of bootlegs - they didn't want the Dead music going out to be subpar in either sound or performance quality, so they would have preferred to have artistic control over any bootleg releases. (Even if such a collaboration had happened, they probably would have rejected any releases as being 'not good enough' for their standards - even by the '90s, they still could barely bring themselves to select any shows worthy of release!)
    Financial control, I'm sure was also an issue, as the Dead have never liked the idea of other people making money off them - whether it be denying film rights to the Monterey festival producers, or cracking down on bootleg t-shirt sellers in later years. I think one reason they became more comfortable with the tapers by '76 was the realization that these people really were trading tapes for free. But also, by then the tapers had become so numerous that it was simply no longer possible, as in the early '70s, to send some roadies out after individual culprits; and the Dead were uneasy in the role of "cops."
    Of course, all the radio broadcasts in 1971 were basically handing free shows to bootleggers; but the Dead probably accepted that in exchange for the wider audience. At the time, a radio broadcast was the best way to get a new show out to the fans. The bandmembers probably also varied in their attitudes toward tapers and bootlegs; Phil seems to have felt a bit more lenient, for example.

    Here, it's quite interesting that Garcia himself is supposed to have said, "Liberate those bootlegs!" Maybe he did say something like that. It's quite an irony that the Dead, having the "free music for the people!" crowd always on their case, now turn the tables and "free" the bootlegs. Pretty righteous. But it's hard to say whether the band was really involved in this episode & Garcia gave the orders, or whether they stayed aloof and let Cutler handle it (which is more likely).
    This article actually illustrates a variety of tactics, as each bootlegger is handled differently - one person gets his records given out for free, others have their confiscated. One guy puts up an argument and is left alone if he promises not to sell at the concert.
    Despite the writer's anger, this isn't such a disaster as he depicts. Of more than 150 records being sold at the concert, 27 got handed out, 120 were confiscated and then returned, and the rest were either undiscovered or left alone, to be sold later. Apparently the outcome depended on how much you were willing to argue, so there doesn't seem to have been a simple "policy."

    Note that the article doesn't cover tapers at all, only bootleggers. Hard to say if the writer even knew audience tapers existed, or if (like the band thought) they were considered to be synonymous with bootleggers. (Of course, if the "goon squad" had encountered any taper, we can be sure he wouldn't have been left in peace!) At this point, it was simply too early for the notion of free tape exchanges to be common.

  5. I was just listening to an interview with Weir, McIntire, Keith (!) and Donna, 9/17/73, on GDAO, and Weir clearly speaks to the things you are describing. No to bootlegging. Quality control important. But if people want to make a tape and take it home and share it with their friends, more power to 'em! We have Jerry saying that a lot, but Weir is less well documented.

  6. A Rolling Stone article on the New Riders (in the 9/2/71 issue) mentions that at the Hollywood Palladium shows in August 1971, "outside the Palladium the Dead were being accorded the honor of having a bootleg LP of theirs peddled."

    Also found a brief mention of Dead bootlegs in the 1/31/72 issue of the Atlanta underground paper, the Great Speckled Bird:

    “Bootleg! The End of an Era” (“A Consumer’s Guide to Bootlegs Albums available in the Atlanta area”)

    “As the cover boasts, "Grateful Dead" is a "professional quality" recording of an entire Dead concert - all 1 3/4 hours worth. The two-record set was taped from a live FM-stereo broadcast of a Fillmore East date. I won't indulge in comparisons to the legitimately available live Dead material, but suffice it to say "Grateful Dead" is comparable to any live Dead material presently on the market.
    Another live Dead bootleg, "Sugar Magnolia" is of almost professional quality, like "Grateful Dead" it features standard Dead concert material and is a very listenable album. The primary distinction between "Sugar Magnolia" and "Grateful Dead" is quantitative. The former includes five tracks, the latter 18.”
    [Some Dylan, Band, Zeppelin & CSNY boots are also listed.]